A few things that will seem disparate until you get to the end:

Thing 1: I have said that the difference between ordinary sex and extraordinary sex is: confidence and joy.

Thing 2: Andrew sent me this story about how The Joy of Sex came to be illustrated. It’s adorable and you should read it – both the story and the actual Joy of Sex, particularly now that it’s been revised and updated.

Thing 3: Bill and Desiree and the Comstock series of non-fiction porn. (H.O.T.)

Bill says, “I think it’s possible for couples to be… to get hung up on the idea that it has to be super all the time, that if it’s not special, it’s not okay. And my experience… life long is that peak experience are just that. Not everything is Mount Everest.”

The complicated point which required all three of these pieces is that extraordinary and “GREAT” are not necessarily the same thing.

See, my point of view is that extraordinary sex is simply non-ordinary, and ordinary sex is the worried, uptight, rule-following sex that most people have most of the time. The sex you imagine when someone says, “What is sex?” You know, two young, thin, middle-class, white heterosexuals in bed, in the dark, in missionary position; she’s worried about her orgasm and he ejaculates too soon. Ordinary. Take that formula and add JOY, and all of a sudden it’s extraordinary. No worry about orgasm or ejaculation. No fretting about erection and lubrication. Just pleasure and delight to be here now with this person you care about.

I mean, do you know how many people struggle to feel joy around their sexualities? Me either, but it’s a LOT.

It is a complicated point for a person who gives sex advice. After all, would you buy a sex book that promised to help you feel joyful about the MEDIOCRE sex you’re having, as well as the excellent sex?

(This, btw, is what I mean by “Enjoy the sex you’re having.”)

What makes it even MORE complicated is that the advice to bring joy to sex, to enjoy your sex no matter what it is, is to advise people to like the other person (or people) involved in their sex life. After all, what’s charming about the original Joy of Sex illustrations is the obvious affection between the two people. What’s charming in Bill and Des’s encounter is the abundant love they share. And what, when you get right down to it, is the difference between love and joy?

Once you really like your partner, the only thing between you and joy is, to put it simply, liking yourself as well.

You don’t have to climb Mt Everest, hell no. Frankly, who would want to? Not me. But when you walk up the local hill, walk it with affection and awareness of this moment. Walk with joy, and it hardly matters where you go.

And because I can’t say it often enough:

Confidence and joy.
It’s not about orgasm
Pay attention to your partner
Enjoy the sex you’re having.

That’s really all the sex advice I have to offer.

Oh, and also lube. Especially silicone lube. But that’s really it.

10 responses to “joy

  1. <3

  2. I love that advice. It’s all about joy!

  3. soooo simple, yet I have to keep reading to let it all sink in. & the cool part is noticing happy couples with joyful connection & thinking: that is what sexy looks like! I get it!

    Also: I’m kinda dying for the sexy stickers. Any way I can get one please? Will trade dollars. :)

    thank you thank you thank you

  4. Emily, we’re honored to see ourselves smiling from the pages of your blog. Thanks for letting folks know about our film! And we agree with you about “extraordinary” sex — it’s sex (of whatever sort) with the addition of connection and joy.

    But maybe we need a third term, too, in addition to ‘ordinary’ and extraordinary,’ one that we can use for sex that’s adventurous, exploratory, edge-pushing, fantasy-pursuing, or otherwise “not ordinary.”

    For me, it’s an equally important part of our sexual life — taking time, every once in a while, to step outside our comfort zone and expand our possibilities. Life *needs* challenge, and whether it’s sexual or emotional or athletic or intellectual, that’s the place where we discover that our boundaries, the size we are in the Universe, is way, way beyond what we assume every day.

    Everyday sex can be like growing really good tomatoes: a patient, attentive ongoing practice. But now and again, we need to climb to the teetery top of some very tall tree and harvest something we’ve never tasted before.

  5. E,

    This is a bit of a rambly thing that over at my place would make yet another blog post that probably seems off-topic (or worse, overworked and boring) to my readership, but I can’t seem to write anything but this question over there, repeatedly. Can I ask here instead? Let’s see if I can actually get to a question in the first place:

    My current sexual relationship is up to about 1-every-3 months-ish, and the quality is mediocre-to-nice. I’d like it both more frequent and higher quality, if I were King of the Universe, but whenever I get caught up in wishing for that, I just end up wasting a lot of time on frustration and neurotic bullshit that doesn’t serve any part of my life in any productive way. So I try to stop thinking about that.

    This is the part that I feel I’m phrasing clumsily: is it psychologically possible for me to sort of “keep an eye open” for a sexual opportunity in that relationship without really spending any active energy to create one? Almost all of the active energy I put into that pursuit goes to waste. It’s like putting a marathon worth of intent into crossing the living room. So can I “lower my intent” to living-room level while still being receptive to a potential marathon, should one ever choose to appear?

    And (if that first part is true), is it possible to imagine that I would then dedicate that no-longer-wasted energy to useful pursuits like grading papers and doing research on stuff I’m interested in? Without that dedication of energy seeming like a “pull away from” my relationship? And even further, without all of the guilt about “not working at the relationship” because right now the relationship is not keen to be worked at? The relationship works (for now) at a very low energy level that I’m trying (and failing, most of the time) to accept. It’s OK that it does this, yes? It’s not going to suddenly fail if I stop trying to hold it up, yes? (I realize I’m asking for mind-reading powers there)

    As I reread this, a paraphrase gets clearer: she’s happy to have the relationship work at a low level of energy and dedication. I’m not. That terrifies me that the relationship will end because the energy isn’t high enough (basic entropy, etc). The more energy I put into this, the more frustration I generate, because she won’t reciprocate. She can get contentment from the low-intensity relationship whereas this situation puts me in a constant state of anxiety that frequently consumes my life. The line of acceptance for me would seem to be this: “Low-intensity relationship does not mean dying relationship. Low intensity, while not preferable, is still OK if what you need to avoid is ‘no relationship.’” Your .02?

    • Criminey. Well, two things:

      1) The marathon metaphor is apt: people who are runners partition energy/calories differently than people who are not physically active. They literally HAVE MORE ENERGY TO BURN. Coop these people up and prevent them from running, and what you get is a crazy fidgity person who never sits still and always feel uncomfortable. You just have more energy. You are an intense person in many domains, including sexually. You don’t just WANT greater intensity, you NEED it. It’s part of your wiring. It’s totally healthy and fine that your relationship is stable at a low energy level, but YOU, it sounds like, are not fine at a low energy level. She’s content; you are not. You NEED more.

      So basically no, you can’t keep an eye out for a marathon while also not trying to create a marathon. You need a marathon. So, like, run a marathon.

      Is it her obligation to meet your need? It is not. But that leaves you with an unmet need. The mathematically straightforward solution is that you find an extra-dyadic way to meet that need. So I want to say, “Negotiate extra-dyadic stuff,” but I know that won’t fly – or it wouldn’t have, years ago. Maybe things are different now? It’s really the only fair solution. Otherwise you are left spinning like a hamster on a wheel.

      I would also point out that I’m pretty sure your driving need for intense connection can not be channeled effectively into your work. It is not work energy, it is interpersonal energy. If you’re craving carbs and you eat protein, you still crave carbs, ya know? There are lots of different roles that relationships fill in our lives; this one can be stable and permanent without being exclusive – at least in principle it can.

      2) If you can transform “wishing for” into “grieving for,” that opens up the opportunity to get deeper into what it is that’s missing and then letting go, which might facilitate communication about this stuff. I’m sure you’ve done a bunch of this work, but it’s useful to remember.

      Also, insert everything about the chasing dynamic here.

      The conclusion is, “Something has to give if something is going to change.” The present situation is tenable only as long as you are willing to suffer life-consuming anxiety in order to follow the rules of the game as they are currently set up.

      I hate this advice because I know it’s bad news. But it’s the only practical, truthful thing I can offer.

  6. Well as ever, it’s useful stuff. Yes, wishing-becoming-grieving is also underway, but of course, that’s painful and it’s hard to force myself to steer a path straight into it. It happens now and then. Thank ya ma’am.

  7. Haha! It might, but it might be seen as some sort of labeling that’s overly directive without capturing the whole complication of things. We used to co-complicate things together, but having our powers of complication turned on each other, with a certain conversational blind spot that is largely about parenting/working, eeeeww. If I go pro-sticker, I’ll hit up your P. O. Box like everyone else :)

  8. Sorry I’m late to this thread, but it does merit one of my favorite quotes.

    “He’d noticed that sex bore some resemblance to cookery: it fascinated people, they sometimes bought books full of complicated recipes and interesting pictures, and sometimes when they were really hungry they created vast banquets in their imagination – but at the end of the day they’d settle quite happily for egg and chips. If it was well done and maybe had a slice of tomato.”
    ― Terry Pratchett, The Fifth Elephant

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